Kammattipaadam is a Malayalam movie starring Dulquer Salman that looks at the story of urban development and the communities it marginalises. The story runs through the life of the lead character, Krishnan, played by Dulquer Salman and how Kammattipaadam where he grew up also grows or is developed.
Kammattipaadam is a place outside the Kochi-Ernakulam twin cities. Krishnan’s childhood is spent in village surroundings with his parents and the generation engaged in farming. As Krishnan grows farming sees a decline and they become part of the outskirts of Ernakulam. Here, in his teenage years, Krishnan takes on criminal activities like others from his community and income group as farming is no longer seen as a viable means to make a livelihood. He stabs a police officer and is sent to jail. When he returns as an adult, he sees that his Kammattipaadam has changed.
Kammattipaadam is now a suburb with small houses replacing farm land. Builders buying old hutments in bulk and building buildings to house the burgeoning population now coming to Ernakulam and Kochi. The crime moves up from petty crimes and spirit business to extortion in communities who stand up to builder lobby that seek to clear people without adequate compensation for the land. The same criminals seem to learn the folly of their ways too late and lose their own land are themselves displaced. The compensation makes up for the price of land but does not make up for the loss of livelihoods.
Moving from farming, many of the people displaced take up plying vehicles, running small businesses and somehow surviving while others take to even more serious crimes like murder. Some who learn the folly of their ways are also not allowed to move out as the past comes back to haunt them.
The movie itself is a rare crime-drama film in Malayalam with realistic portrayals from various actors. The film does not seek to answer how to fix the issues that it raises but rather holds up a mirror to the urban community to show that this is probably how the buildings that you live in was built up – on the blood and toil of communities and people who were extorted and murdered to fulfil the whims of early developers who were driven by the greed of money.
It could be that this was not the case, but the movie makes you curious about how your urban sprawl grew, what was there before and the people who once called that land home.